Monday, June 9, 2014

Tina Tilley in Newburgh, Maine

Tina Tilley

Tina was a contestant in our 35th Anniversary Essay Contest last year.  After you've read her essay (below) you will see why we wanted an update on her busy life.  

Many folks wish they could leave the big city and start a simpler life in a small, rural town, but few actually do it.  It takes a lot of courage and determination.  Tina apparently has all of that and now she's "living the dream!"

Of course, it isn't easy.  As she told us, "After a full day of hobbying, I go to my full-time job at the lab. My husband feeds and then chauffeurs our two teenagers around to their after school events.  
We sleep very well."

Tina's Essay

Five years ago, if someone met me and asked me what I did, I'd say that I worked in the Molecular Microbiology lab at Johns Hopkins hospital. I loved my job in the city.

What I didn't like was the near-death commute every day to work, and I didn't like the disconnected environment in which my children were growing.

We no longer live in Baltimore, MD, population 621,000; we live in Newburgh, ME, population 1,400. I still work in a laboratory at night, but when people ask me what I do, I tell them that I have a small goat farm to provide milk for my family for drinking and eating (as cheese).

The red dot is Newburgh
In 2009, my husband and I attended Goat School in St. Albans, Maine and purchased two does. I started making chevre. My family loved it and so did my neighbor down the street.

In 2010, only one of my goats kidded, so I had very little milk with which to work. I tried yogurt. It was too runny, but I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong (Jim's advice in the Moosletter this month would have been EXTREMELY helpful). My son and I settled for a delicious and refreshing concoction that we drank.

I became very brave in 2011. I obviously couldn't count on just those two does, so I bought two more and tried mozzarella. To summarize: I struggled. I could appreciate the science behind it, but I was getting very strong messages about my poor technique. I have since worked through that and my family is delighted to have their pizza topping again.

In 2012 I bought another goat and some lipase, and tried feta. Wow, that was a fantastic idea! Why did I wait so long? What was so intimidating about adding that enzyme? My daughter and I now enjoy eating salads, and what an easy cheese to preserve and enjoy during the winter.

It is currently 2013, and I'm ready to try cheddar. I've researched cheese presses. I've researched waxes and wraps and I just bought two more does to kid this spring. It's time.

How has making cheese changed my life? Well, I now raise goats, and I refer to my husband as 'farm boy.'  I can milk four does in less than a half an hour and I can do the math for a goat's gestational period in my head. 

I have traded my cheese with my neighbors for bread, crackers, seedlings, bunny cages, bunnies, jelly, canning lessons, horse lessons, tractor usage, a wood stove, veggies, egg cartons, barn sitting, mittens, firewood, pig food, and fencing. 

I enjoy the conversations with those that live within my small community and treat my family and me as if we have lived here forever. It feels good to be connected and part of something bigger. I truly believe that it all comes back to that deliciously unique, unpresuming cheese.

Cutest labels ever!

What kind of cheese are you making now?

I only make feta (salad, wraps), mozzarella (pizza), and chevre (mac+cheese, lasagna, dip), but I eagerly read about the cheese of the month in the newsletters.  I have no experience with the aged cheeses, but it's on my list. The last few years we have used all the milk by drinking it, turning it into those quick cheeses, yogurt, soap, or swapping it out for something cool from one of our buddies. :)

We are currently gathering sap (finally) and boiling it down and hope to have that wrapped up before the kids, piglets, chicks and turkeys arrive. I've got seedlings started inside and have a small greenhouse to move them to when the weather starts to even out a little more. 

Update a few weeks later:  We made about a 1/2 gallon of maple syrup, which by some standards is pathetic, but we LOVE it (we froze some) and we will definitely be doing it next year. It's always feels good to eat/drink something you've made yourself.

Maple syrup boiling

How many goats do you have this season?

Final count was seven baby goats, five boys and two girls. I'm currently looking to re-home them so I can get started making cheese again. They are adorable - but ALWAYS hungry!

How did you learn to raise goats?

I learned most of what I know about goats from the Goat School that is offered twice a year in St. Albans, Maine. I volunteered there last weekend.  I do this every year because they are pretty cool people and they got me started with goats. Even though I'm not actually attending the lectures, I always learn something new and make some new friends. 

On Sunday, before I left to go help out, I started my first batch of feta for the season. On Tuesday I made my first batch of mozzarella (I'm out of practice), and I'm seasoning my first batch of chevre this morning while I start another round of feta. We are completely out of cheese, so I have some catching up to do.

What else are you up to?

I just got a call that someone wants to buy 20 bars of my soap. Yippee! That will help toward the enormous amounts of grain that the does are eating right now!!!  I use 5 cups of milk for one batch (plus lye and lard) makes between 20 and 30 bars of soap.

Where do you sell it?

Oh, well mostly co-workers, or from my driveway, but there is a new store '101 Miles of Maine' in the town next to mine that is selling it. We do this for fun. It's not really a business. :)

Homemade ingredients make a particularly delicious pizza!

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